Sydney - Quade Cooper is on the verge of walking away from rugby union.
The Reds and Australian flyhalf is at increasingly
remote odds to play another game for the Reds or Wallabies as
negotiations to finalise the remaining components of his latest deal
continue to deteriorate.
Cooper indicated in June he would remain with the Reds for a
further three seasons, but the Australian Rugby Union part of that
contract is yet to be completed.
With Cooper venting his frustrations at
the ''toxic'' Wallabies environment via social media and his
relationship with coach Robbie Deans at rock bottom, the 24-year-old is
making all the sounds of man who is making a move.
Sources told Fairfax on Monday that given the climate, Cooper is
little chance to remain involved in Australian rugby next season. The
French competition and the NRL are among the potential destinations if
Cooper has spoken of a desire to play in the NRL on a few
occasions, while close friend Sonny Bill Williams has made it clear he
wants to lure Cooper back to the game he played as a schoolboy.
wants Cooper to join him at the Sydney Roosters next season, and
judging by Cooper's sentiments during an outspoken weekend, in which he
fired shots at Deans, the ''boring'' rugby of the Wallabies and the
state of the ARU, he is more than open to the prospect.
Until they hear otherwise, the Reds expect Cooper to be back
at Ballymore next year but concede there are rifts between their star
player and the ARU that need to be mended before that happens.
But with Roosters chairperson Nick Politis out of the country on
business, it was left to club chief executive Steve Noyce to hose down
the reports. ''We're aware of a lot of speculation but James Maloney is
joining us as our marquee signing at flyhalf, and we've made a
commitment to James,'' he said.
Maloney is expected to form a formidable halves combination
with Mitchell Pearce, leaving little room for Cooper. He could play at
fullback but the club also appears to be full there, with gun wing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck considered a successor to veteran Anthony
Reds chief executive Jim Carmichael, who has castigated
Cooper for his outspoken views on Twitter at the weekend, said several
issues needed to be resolved.
''The Reds have kept their house tidy. These are in-house
issues that have to be dealt [with] between Quade and the Wallabies, not
the Reds,'' he said. ''There's a lot of issues there. They [the ARU]
need to reconcile their issues with Quade, and Quade has to reconcile
his issues with them.''
The beginning of the frayed relationship between Cooper, Deans and the ARU can be traced back to the World Cup last year.
Cooper's supporters feel he was made a scapegoat for the
lacklustre Wallabies performance. They also believe there was little
public backing from coaches and management in the face of an onslaught
from Kiwi fans over his run-ins with Richie McCaw.
Deans's criticism of Cooper following the win over Argentina
looks to have been the final straw, with Cooper taking little time to
air his thoughts on the state of the game as he awaited further surgery
on his reconstructed knee.
''There's a lot of people who are afraid to say what they
feel so they just go along with it, and nothing is going to change,'' he
said on Sunday.
''That's why I feel so strongly as a player. I don't want to
be involved in the toxic environment, and that's how it is at the
moment. It's an environment where things aren't going according to plan,
and everyone is looking to point the finger.''
Cooper has made it clear his issue lies with the ARU, not the
Reds. He plays his best rugby for their coach, Ewen McKenzie, who is in
line for the Wallabies job after Deans.
Much could depend on the next two Tests, against South Africa
in Pretoria and Argentina in Rosario. A poor showing could prompt a
push against Deans and the promotion of McKenzie, which appears to be
the only scenario that will keep Cooper in the Australian game.
Former Wallabies coaches have also had their say, with Eddie
Jones urging Cooper to go to league. ''It's clear to me that Quade has
lost all confidence playing in the current set-up, and I think it's time
for him to go and start something new,'' he said.
And John Connolly said the Cooper-Deans situation had
reached the point of no return. ''It's not acceptable to have players
going public bagging the coach,'' he said.